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The School Options Fair is right around the corner

coliseum22.jpgIt will be at the Coliseum, across the highway from the Tribune’s new offices.

Like this newspaper, the fair used to be located in downtown Oakland. The sprawling Coliseum/Oakport region off the I-880 is where it’s at these days, I’m telling you. At least it’s accessible by BART.

Here are the details on the fair, which is Friday and Saturday. School options applications are due Jan. 15.

image from D.L.’s Web site at flickr.com

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Joaquin Miller Parent

    I will be attending the School Options Fair on behalf of our school. I want to let people know what a great school it is – and that while there are always improvements that can be made, we have a safe and caring campus, an enthusiastic new principal, a long-term progressive PTA, a solid mix of kids (by range of abilities, ethnicities, religions, cultures, and family structures) and teachers who really care about making learning and exploration interesting and motivating.

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    The truth is that there will be very few to no spaces for children in the open lottery at any of the hills schools. I don’t know that my child’s hills school took anyone from the open lottery this past year and that is unlikely to change going forward.

    When hills schools may not even be able to accommodate neighborhood kids, what’s the point of trying to “sell” the school at the options fair to children who have even less chance of securing a spot? There is a claim of “choice” but the reality is that there is very little true choice.

    Having said that, I do know 2-3 people who successfully navigated the options program last enrollment cycle. They were able to get their children into a good school, but I don’t think anyone or everyone can count on that happening.

    Every year that goes by is getting tougher for people in the open lottery. I’ve heard from several people at many different hills schools that neighborhood kids now make up the vast majority of children and this is up dramatically from only a few years ago when many/most of the kids were from out of the neighborhood.

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    Just a follow-up to my post above… I’m for neighborhood schools for neighborhood kids, but I do think it is unfair to suggest to others who may wish to move that there is a true option to do so. Only the very persistent and/or the very lucky will end up with a great transfer option. Me? I’m just hoping that my next child will be able to attend our neighborhood school, as we are at or over capacity even with neighborhood kids! Yikes!

  • Sue

    Just wanted to say thanks, Katy. We’ll be attending the options fair because of this blog entry.

  • left oakland

    I believe PR/marketing is an important, useful and often overlooked component of improving public schools in diverse urban/semi-urban areas. Hearing from parents who are happy and committed to their public schools goes a long, long way to attract similar, like-minded folks and helps quell useless playground chatter that all is doom and gloom out there with public schools. More committed middle class families = better public schools. I am very interested to see if limited school choice in OUSD will improve the quality of schools.

  • Hills Mom #2

    For OUSD to say that families have a choice is very misleading. Parents looking for a school other than their neighborhood school DO NOT STAND A CHANCE! The more desireable schools are filled with neighborhood children or children who’s parents know how to obtain the required documentation that OUSD uses to verify addresses. Will there ever be anyone in OUSD who will be responsible for investigating all addresses? I would think that with all the enrollment problems surrounding the hills schools that OUSD would look at hiring a full time person who could do all of the investigation. Unfortunately, the individual school sites have their hands tied in that they can only accept the verification that parents bring in showing their residency. I would be terribly upset if my children would be displaced because of someone with a false address would get a spot at our neighborhood school and my children could not. The system is way overdue for an overhaul.

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    Hills Mom # 2, I couldn’t agree with you more on the falsification issue. It’s a BIG problem at my hills school. I suggest that you and anyone else who feels strongly about this issue meet with your school principal and write letters to OUSD about this problem. They need to hear that this is a problem!!! Until they take it seriously, I doubt that anything will change.

    I can’t believe that OUSD would rather displace actual neighborhood kids than check to verify that the applicants to an over-enrolled school actually live where they say they live! There is so much cheating that the system is a joke! It wouldn’t take much additional effort to institute independent verification. There are so many resources on-line and home checks can easily be conducted on all suspicious applications. What about a vehicle for reporting such families? OUSD doesn’t even have this in place. Those are all things that many/most other school districts use to deter non-residents from attending their schools.

  • left oakland

    This is what we thought too. And that is why we moved out of Oakland. Surely but slowly though, I have been hearing about up and coming Oakland schools that are forming strong PTA’s and have renewed parent commitment. Piedmont and Glenview and the like. It’s been promising and encouraging to hear. The parents at these schools have a vested interest in attracted like-minded folks. I’m not talking about the 8-10 hills schools either. I know they are already overenrolled and chances of getting into one of those schools are pretty slim.

    One of the problems with school choice is that it’s just plan confusing and can be chaotic as it seemed to be the case last year. Hopefully, things will go smoother this year and information from OUSD will be clearer.

  • tired of falsified addresses

    Hills Mom #2: OUSD should look at the recent steps that San Leandro has taken to check on addresses. They have made hundreds of home visits to verify addresses. OUSD has no excuse. It is only the overextended schools that need address verification, so they have no excuse…other than a desire to encourage such cheating. The Options Fair is a big joke if anyone actually believes that they can select their schools. Those who live in the neighborhood cannot even select their own neighborhood schools and be assured of placement.

  • John

    Picky picky! If school a district can’t check to determine if a student is a resident of this country what’s the big deal about knowing whether or not he’s is the resident of a school neigborhood? Or if breaking the rules in crossing our country’s borders isn’t an issue what’s the big deal about breaking some pesky rules about crossing a neighborhood boundry line to by whatever means to enroll ones child in a neighborhood school? Progressives need to be progressively consistent. Because I’m not particularly progressive I’ll be enrolling my child in a school district outside of OPS where my child’s academic performance is not secondary to someone else’s progressive ideology.

  • GimmieShelter

    Question to the members of the School Board: Now that you are getting your authority back are you finally, finally going to investigate what the Chief of Community Accountability is doing or not doing? That District official certainly must know alot about prior year’s “options” inequities and fallacies and the degree to which they continue today. I hope you are finally going to hold that Chief “ACCOUNTABLE.”

    For instance: All of us parents would like to know the data, and are wondering when, if ever, the Board will insist on publishing this information on the District’s website, yahoo groups, wherever.

    Isn’t the Board in charge now, finally, of “community relations?” By the way, as an aside, which Press or Communications person is the Board’s person? And, if they don’t have one — why not?

    Now, is it possible to have a senior school district official present the theory, the rationale and the plan behind the options process in one-place for all to see, NOW. This information has no doubt been presented in various ways to the Board over the last few years. How about a simple summary document of the case for having this type of options process (including the data supporting that case) presented in a visible, accessible place this week as the process gets going?

    This short document could address a list of 10 basic questions and answers –
    1. How many people participate in the elementary schools process?
    2. How many non-neighborhood families who select the top handful of schools (what are they….. Joaquin Miller, Montclair, Redwood Heights, Hillcrest, ???) actually get one of their choices?
    3.How many or what percent of families that participate in the elementary schools process actually get redirected to their neighborhood school?
    4. MORE IMPORTANTLY — why not show in one place — how about the main page of the district website — the lineup of teachers (qualifications/tenure at the school/etc.) the planned infrastructure improvements over the upcoming year, etc.
    5. — 10. Add your questions.

    The point is if the District wants the community to get with the program and get behind the process, they need to do a much better job of making the case for this “Options” program and it should be (needs to be) done now.

    If they are not going to that, then get off of it already. Let’s stop the pretense and propganda about how great all this options stuff is and instead double down with our facilities efforts to paint, rennovate and build out the physical infrastructue as well as more aggressively support the teachers (with money and other resources) of our other (non-elite) elementary schools so that they become as attractive as the other five or six.

  • Sue

    See you all at the Options Fair.

    Not that I see any reason for parents of 4-y-o’s to go, because it just doesn’t matter
    that much which elementary school a kid goes to for kindergarten, IMHO. I’ll be at the
    fair to talk to middle school representatives, and see where I’d like my 5th grader to be
    next year.

    We know Bret Harte wants him because they sent us a letter a month or so
    ago about how wonderful their GATE program would be for him. And we’re looking at
    Montera because our older son attended and we know and like that school. And we’ll see
    what other choices are available.

    Not that we’re naive, we know that we might not get our first choice. But we know from
    lots of experience that if we don’t even bother to ask, that we definitely won’t get any
    choice. Just like back in ’82 when the Air Force job councellor told me not to bother
    putting “Computer Programmer” as a choice because I wouldn’t get it – I laughed at him
    then, and here I am 25 years later still doing what the AF trained me to do,
    programming.

  • Joaquin Miller Parent

    I attended the Schools Option Fair and was quite disappointed in the turnout. I stood in front of the table to be more approachable as opposed to behind the table. I staffed the table from 10 to noon and spoke to 8 parents.

    I was disappointed in the number of parents who complain about the schools, but did not get out to the Fair to see what is available for their children. What I found most interesting is taking back literature from other schools to improve our own school (adding Odyssey of the Mind which Glenview is doing and Kaiser has begun this year). There were also some interesting options for Spanish Immersion, similar to Rosa Parks in Berkeley.

    Perhaps there were more visitors later in the day. I do have to commend the Oakland Unified School District on a couple of things: 1) Parking was free. 2) A “guard” at the parking lot entrance was well-versed on where people needed to go. 3) Tables were in alphabetical order which made it easier to find the schools you wanted. 4) Elementary schools were to the right and middle / high schools to the left of the entrance.

    What Oakland Unified could have done better is to let every Head Start family know about the Fair and what it meant to their child’s education. Send flyers to every licensed preschool and day care center in Oakland. And finally, help schools in Spanish speaking areas of the city have Spanish language materials available about the schools. One of the schools that is bilingual immersion had English only literature – quite disappointing as some of the parents / decision makers spoke and read only Spanish.